Chinese instruction returns to Bolton, Stafford and Sunset; expands to middle schools

The teachers are selected and the visas and travel arrangements are in progress.

All that is left to do is secure living arrangements for the four teachers and teachers-in-training who will be arriving in late August or early September as the West Linn-Wilsonville School District prepares for its second year of Chinese instruction.

by: SUBMITTED - Two Chinese teachers arrived in Portland on Sept. 8 for the 2012-13 school year. From left, Yang Lei and her hosts, Matt and Wendy Miller, and Gu Zhe with her host, Denise Jones, and Sunset Principal Lisa Hawking.In 2012, two volunteer teachers came from China to live with host families and teach Chinese at Bolton, Stafford and Sunset primary schools while pursuing the equivalent of their master’s degrees at Portland State University. Because of the program’s success last year, administrators are not only repeating last year’s grade school program but also expanding it at the district’s three middle schools.

Sixth-graders at Athey Creek, Inza Wood and Rosemont will be able to take Mandarin Chinese as an elective in the 2013-14 school year. Two visiting teachers will work with schools through Portland State University’s Confucius Institute Program. Unlike the volunteer teachers who will work and gain experience at the primary schools, both the visiting teachers are fluent English teachers and have teaching certificates and experience teaching in China and abroad.

“Having had Chinese language and culture instruction come to Sunset has been a huge positive,” said Sunset Principal Lisa Hawking. “Our staff had the opportunity to incorporate art, music, important cultural celebrations, geography, literature and more.”

While each school community as a whole will benefit from the Chinese teacher’s presence, a particular opportunity exists for four families in the district. Hosting a teacher for the duration of the school year offers benefits, according to Kathy Ludwig, the district’s assistant superintendent.

“It’s a great way to get to know more about Chinese culture,” she said. “Most (host) families establish a great relationship that can be ongoing beyond the year of hosting,” with opportunities to travel, visit and stay in touch.

Students in host families have the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture and develop their language skills.

Host families receive guidelines and support from the school district. They are expected to provide a room for the Chinese teacher and supply breakfast and dinner. The teachers can ride the bus to school.

“The volunteer teachers receive a small allowance from China, so they have some spending money,” Ludwig said. “They get a bus pass and are familiar with public transportation. They come as part of a cohort and take classes at PSU.”

The visiting teachers are paid a stipend through the Confucius Institute.

West Linn City Councilor Mike Jones and his wife, Denise, hosted Sunset’s Chinese teacher, Gu Zhe, last year and say their daughter misses their guest a lot.

“They have provided amazing experiences for her,” Hawking said. “There wasn’t a single glitch. ... They helped me feel confident we were doing everything remotely possible to help Gu Zhe feel at home and ready to teach.”

Families who might be interested in hosting can contact Ludwig at 503-673-7000 to learn more.

Although only four host families are needed, everyone in the district can play a part in making the Chinese teachers feel at home.

“We ask that you consider inviting our teachers ... for a meal or to various local activities and events throughout the school year to enhance their cultural experience of West Linn, Wilsonville and Oregon,” Ludwig said.

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